Employment numbers continue to show slow recovery

Job statistics released in the past few days continue to show a still wounded but slowly healing economy nationally and regionally.

Regional employment and unemployment statistics from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) charted a 22 percent drop in initial jobless claims in February compared with February of 2009. This is the first time in several months that all regions of the state charted year-over-year drops in initial jobless claims.

The seven-county Metro area showed both the largest number of claims at 29,000 and, at a 26 percent drop from a year ago, the largest percentage drop of all the state’s planning regions. The smallest percent drop in initial claims —  at 9 percent — was recorded in the 23 counties in the southwest Minnesota region.

Source: Minnesota DEED

The drop in initial jobless claims follows a recent report showing announcements of projected layoffs in February fell to the lowest level since 2006 nationwide with no layoff announcements charted in Minnesota.

Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a special report looking at changes in the employment ratio by state for the full year 2009. Instead of measuring unemployment, this figure measures the percent of the total population that is in the workforce. While all 50 states recorded statistically significant declines from 2008 to 2009, some states, Minnesota included, still maintained relatively high ratios.

Minnesota measured 66.9 percent of the population in the workforce, down 2.3 points from 69.2 percent in 2007 at the start of the recession. This compares with a national average of 59.3 percent, down 3.7 points from 2007. North Dakota enjoys the highest employment ratio nationwide, while South Dakota and Nebraska are tied for second. All three are down from 71 percent each enjoyed in 2007, to 69.4 and 58.9 percent respectively at the end of 2009.

Battered by auto industry woes, Michigan has been the hardest hit state in the upper Midwest.  Only 54.3 percent of Michigan’s’ population is in the workforce, down 5.9 points from 60.2 percent in 2007.

West Virginia again reported the lowest employment-population ratio among the states (50.5 percent), which it has done for 34 consecutive years.

Separately, the BLS also reported 2.7 million job openings on the last business day of January 2010. The job openings rate rose over the month to 2.1 percent, the highest the rate has been since February 2009.

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